| CHICAGO, April 19
CHICAGO, April 19 An Illinois judge said on
Wednesday he will rule later this month on whether to
temporarily halt how the state distributes funds for public
schools after lawyers for Chicago’s cash-strapped school system
argued the current funding formula is racially discriminatory.
A lawsuit filed by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) against
the state of Illinois seeking to invalidate the state's
school-funding system made its first appearance in a courtroom,
where lawyers for the nation’s third-largest school system
sought a temporary injunction on the disbursement of any new
education dollars throughout the state.
After presiding over a crowded hearing, Cook County Circuit
Court Judge Franklin Valderrama indicated he will have a ruling
on the city’s injunction motion and on the state’s bid to
dismiss the case on April 28.
CPS, which faces deep financial problems, argues the
existing formula violates Illinois’ Civil Rights Act because the
state does not underwrite costs for city teacher pension
payments as it does for school systems elsewhere in the state.
“Our children are 20 percent of enrollment but receive only
15 percent of funding. That’s a $500 million annual gap,” CPS
CEO Forrest Claypool told reporters after Wednesday’s court
hearing. “Our children are 90 percent of color. The rest of the
state is predominantly white. The Illinois Civil Rights Act is
clear, you cannot discriminate on the basis of race."
Pension payments that will jump to $733 million this fiscal
year – up from $676 million last year – have drained reserves
and been a factor in the system's general obligation credit
ratings dropping deep into the junk category.
Lawyers representing the state argued that figuring how
Illinois education dollars are distributed falls within the
purview of state lawmakers and the governor, who have been
locked in a nearly two-year budget stalemate.
They also said imposing a requirement that Chicago’s school
system receive a bigger slice of the funding pie with regard to
teacher pensions would impose financial harm on districts
outside the city that are not involved in the lawsuit.
“They’re asking you to shut down the entire state education
funding system,” said Gary Caplan, an assistant attorney general
representing the state.
The legal maneuvering by CPS follows several earlier failed
attempts by others to reduce the state funding gap between
property-wealthy school systems in Illinois and poorer
counterparts with high concentrations of children from
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)